Simpson College Cabinet decides not to require COVID-19 vaccine this fall

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The Cabinet and CMT’s decision not to require the vaccination was motivated by external factors such as the Center for Disease Control and Iowa Department of Public Health requirements.

by Amelia Schafer, Ethan Humble, Editor-in-chief and KSTM Station Manager

The Simpson College Cabinet has made the decision not to require the COVID-19 vaccine this fall. Instead, the college has decided to strongly recommend that all students, faculty and staff receive the vaccine. 

In a May 6 email to the Simpson College community, the college announced its decision to recommend the vaccine rather than require it strongly. It also unveiled protocols for the green phase, which would act similarly to campus operations in fall 2019.

Heidi Levine, Chairman of the Crisis Management Team (CMT), said that the team looked at several more prominent agencies when making their decision on whether to require vaccinations or not.

“The places where we have looked most for guidance have been the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Iowa Department of Public Health (IPDA), and the American College Health Association (ACHA),” Levine said. “At the time we made the decision, there was no guidance that had come out about a stance that they were recommending the colleges take regarding vaccination.”

Fellow CMT member and Simpson Dean of Students Luke Behaunek echoed Levine’s statement that the cabinet and CMT’s decision not to require the vaccination was motivated by external factors such as the Center for Disease Control and Iowa Department of Public Health requirements.  

“There were several factors within it, and we still don’t quite know what CDC or IDPH is going to recommend; however, the state of Iowa has not been supportive of vaccine requirements and have recently passed legislation that would make it hard for us to do something like that,” Behaunek said. “So we know that there are several avenues that we could take and this is the one we’ve chosen as a result.”

From that knowledge, Levine said the team’s recommendation to the cabinet would be to recommend but not require the vaccine for next year strongly.

“We are recommending that we use vaccination levels in order to determine what protocols on campus will be next year,” she said. “But also said, if at some point the CDC or the ACHA recommends that campuses require vaccination, we may change that recommendation.”

Behaunek shared his insight on what campus life would look like in green phase.

“Our goal is green phase as Heidi shared today, which would mean 80% or greater of our campus community are vaccinated, and we are very much hoping that that will look like fall 2019 with maybe some minor changes from that time given still the vaccine, or sorry, it’s still the virus realities that we need to keep in mind, but more or less, campus life very much as normal for students,” Behaunek said. 

Currently, there is no data about just how much of the Simpson community has been vaccinated, but Levine shared her thoughts on how that could be tracked come fall.

“It would involve asking people such as students, faculty and staff to report their vaccination status to us and if they have completed vaccination to upload a copy of their vaccination card with that to support,” Levine said. “Who has access to individual-specific information would be limited to health services staff… so that other people do not have access to individual’s health information.”

This fall, rather than utilizing the Moodle check-in system, the college will use a one-time form for students to report their vaccinations. 

“The vaccine check-in will only be a one-time form that is filled out and the documentation submitted for it will be very much like a student health form that students did when they first came to campus, although it’ll just be it’ll be much shorter,” Behaunek said. 

As for student-athletes, Levine said the protocols set by the NCAA could potentially allow vaccinated students to avoid COVID-19 testing.

“The NCAA and American Rivers Conference (ARC) are finalizing their recommendations and guidelines for athletics, but what it looks like they are moving toward for next year would say that student-athletes who had proof of vaccination would be exempt from testing protocols,” she said.

Levine added that coaches would likely recommend their athletes be vaccinated to avoid a complete team shut-down, similar to what several Simpson teams faced this past academic year.

“The NCAA and ARC look like they are going to follow the exact model, which I am pretty certain is going to mean that coaches are going to be working with their teams to very strongly encourage vaccinations,” she said. “I think there is already a big pool of students on campus who are going to be vaccinated who can also hopefully be ambassadors, encouraging their fellow students to do the same.”

Making it to the green phase is something Behaunek says isn’t too far-fetched. 

“We’re optimistic about our goals in that regard, and the students I’ve talked to are seemingly on board with the recommendations,” Behaunek said. “We’re also very mindful that students don’t want to keep random testing, and they don’t want to have to quarantine if they come in close contact with the virus, so besides our overall campus life environment that we’re shooting for. There are also some really important aspects to students that might encourage them to be vaccinated as well.”